Original Japanese WWII Army Company Officer's 1886 Pattern Kyu-Gunto Sword with Handmade Blade & Scabbard
Original Item: Only One Available. The first standard sword of the Japanese military was known as the kyu-gunto (旧軍刀, old military sword). Murata Tsuneyoshi (1838-1921), a Japanese general who previously made guns, started making what was probably the first mass-produced substitute for traditionally made samurai swords. These swords are referred to as "Murata-to" and they were used in both the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905).
The kyu gunto was used from 1875 until 1934, it closely resembled European and American swords of the time, with a wraparound hand guard (also known as a D-Guard) and chrome plated scabbard (saya), the steel scabbard is said to have been introduced around 1900.
Prior to 1945, many kyū guntō were distributed to commissioned officers to fill a demand for swords to Japan's expanding military officer classes. To distinguish individuality, wealth or craftsmanship, many swords were produced in batches as small as 1–25 to maintain the legacy of sword culture. Styles varied greatly, with inspirations drawn from swords of early periods, familial crests, and experimental artistic forms that the Meiji Restoration period had begun to introduce. Some examples have included European style silverworking, jade, cloisonné, or metalwork and paint for artistic relief.
Kyu-gunto swords, also called Russo-Japanese swords, were used by Army, Cavalry and Naval officers during the Russo-Japanese War and WWII. This style of mounting was used from 1883 until 1945. Like shin-gunto, a great variety of quality in both blades, traditional and machine made, and mounts is seen in kyu-gunto swords. Many variations are found in the scabbards of kyu-gunto swords including chromed metal, lacquered wood or leather covered wood with brass fixtures. Any style scabbard may have a leather field cover. Those swords with elongated hilts and mekugi (peg for holding blade into hilt) are more likely to have hand forged blades, while the swords lacking mekugi generally are machine made and may have chromed blades. The backstraps of naval kyu-gunto swords have no side pieces while army kyu-gunto and colonial swords have side pieces with various emblems on the backstrap.
This is a nice example of an high grade Army Company Officer Kyu-Gunto, complete with the original nickel-plated scabbard. This sword was produced prior to WWII or during the early war period, before the fittings were switched to aluminum, and construction simplified. It was made for a real handmade Katana blade, which requires the older 1886 pattern fittings, which were designed around traditional blades. This differs from later versions with the much smaller bent handle. These were real swords, sturdily built for actual use. We very rarely see Kyu-gunto swords from the WWII era with handmade blades, making this a real treat.
The blade is handmade and was expertly crafted by a sword maker, which is indicated by a few tell-tale characteristics that include:
- Hole in the tang is punched and not drilled.
- Vibrant visible temper line ("hamon") with crystallization visible (Nie and Nioi)
- Blade has a Bo'Hi fuller near the spine.
- Blade has a proper geometric Yokote at the tip (kissaki) with a Boshi (tip temper line)
- Visible HADA (grain) in the body of the blade and lamination in the temper line.
As the tang of the blade is unsigned, it is considered 無名 (mumei), or "anonymous". There are no stampings or other markings anywhere on the tang that we could see.
Offered in very good lightly used condition, the blade is still relatively sharp and looks great. The edge of the blade is mostly dent and nick free, with just a bit of a rough edge near the tip. There is a bit of chipping near the middle of the edge, so may have seen actual combat use. It also has some light oxidation in areas, and minor scuffing from cleaning and use. Blade length is approximately 27 inches and overall length 37 1/4 inches. The katana has a handmade blade with a Futsu 普通 (regular) Nakago (tang) with an KIRI (cut) nakago-jiri (tang tip).
The blade also has a proper geometri kissaki (tip) with a clear yokote (division between body and tip). The main edge Temper line (hamon) is fully visible, and is a very attractive rounded GUNOME (Zig Zag) shape. Along the transition there are clear NIE crystals visible, with cloudy areas of NIOI in the body of the hamon, and some nice activity. The temper line gets close to the edge near the Ha-Machi (blade notch), but it does not look to run off the edge. The body of the blade (JI) also shows hada (grain), which is a faint MASAME (straight) pattern. The tip temper line (boshi) is visible, and is the KOMARU (small turnback) type. The Habaki (blade collar) is the typical "rain" design type seen on 1886 pattern fittings.
The hilt is an ornate multi-piece brass example, with excellent pebbling on the back strap and collar. The metal originally fully gilt, and it still retains this very well, with only minor wear in areas. It has the standard 10-petal Cherry Blossom emblem jutting out from the back strap, indicating Imperial Japanese Army use. It has a very elongated European style guard, to allow for the longer grip on the 1886 pattern hilt. The grip is fully wrapped in lovely stingray skin shagreen (Sa-Me), which is in excellent condition, and still retains the original brass wire binding. The guard does not fold down, as some do, and has a functional scabbard lock. There is very little play in the fittings, making this a great example. There is an ebony wood peg (mekugi) holding the hilt to the tang, and it looks to be original.
The scabbard (saya) is nickel-plated steel, which is mostly intact, with some wear on the drag area as well as near the top above the hanger bolster. It is a very simple design scabbard, patterned after European swords of the 19th century. The hanging ring is present, and the scabbard locks correctly onto the hilt. Definitely a great looking example.
Overall this is a really nice example of this type of sword, and was definitely an upmarket version, owned by a member of a distinguished and wealthy family. This would make a worthy addition to any Japanese military collection. Ready to display!
Blade Length: 27"
Blade Style: Katana
Overall length: 37 1/4“
Scabbard Length: 29 1/2"
It has been over one thousand years ago that the art of making swords appeared in Japan. The swordsmiths of the time may not have known it but they were creating a legendary sword. The Samurai sword has seen combat in many battlefields. From the early days of the Samurai warrior to the fierce battles in the South Pacific during WWII.
Each hand-made Samurai sword is unique because it is forged from folded steel stock. A tremendous amount of work is dedicated to creating these pieces. They were an instrument of war as much as a beautiful artifact to adorn a room.
The Samurai sword has grown to be one of the most highly desired military antiques.
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